Wildfires are growing problems in the world. As climate change continues to occur and human beings fail to take precautions to prevent them, wildfires have continued to destroy acres of vegetation and property while irrevocably altering the ecosystem and taking human and animal lives. But when and where do most wildfires occur in the US, and how can people be better about preventing them? Here are a few facts and figures for your consideration.
Unsurprisingly, most wildfires take place in the heat of summer, but peak wildfire season differs from state to state. From 1992 to 2015, most wildfires happened in June, and 20 million acres burned in Alaska alone. But June isn’t the only month when wildfires happen. During that same time period, Florida saw most of its wildfires catch and spread during the month of May. Elsewhere, Oklahoma experienced most of its wildfires earlier on, specifically in March. Still, the hot, dry periods that summertime offers make it the season when most wildfires take place.
The trouble is that “summer” is almost a relative term. Some parts of the United States experience summer-like conditions year-round. Wildfire frequency drops in the non-summer months, but climate change and odd weather patterns have made them more common and frequent in certain states. With California’s generally pleasant, warm weather, for example, wildfires are deep ongoing concerns there even during the other seasons. And California isn’t the only state experiencing this.
The State of the States
Statistics show that California leads the nation in wildfire threats, in terms of vegetation burned, property destroyed, lives threatened or taken, and evacuations. Famously, California has seen several of the largest wildfires in US history, including the August Complex Fire, the Dixie Fire, and the Mendocino Complex Fire, which threatened two million properties.
In 2022, the state most affected by wildfires was Alaska. Side-by-side, however, you can see that while Alaska saw more acreage burned by fire (about 3,000,000 acres), it saw a total of “just” 595 fires. California, on the other hand, saw 300,000-plus acres burned by 7,000-plus fires. Stunningly, while Alaska lost some 11,000 acres to fires, California lost 250,000.
What Can We Do?
We’ve explored when and where most wildfires occur in the US—now what can we do about them? Clearly, human beings need to take steps to reduce the conditions that cause fires. Greener lifestyles can never hurt. When it comes time to put out smaller fires before they turn into big ones, make sure local firefight crews are equipped with the proper wildland firefighting tools. Above all, be safe and smart. Put out campfires, don’t discard lit cigarettes in the wild, and stay vigilant.